Harvesters and planters are buzzing in grain areas


It is harvest time! A season’s hard work is currently being richly rewarded, but also the winter planting season is already well underway. Are you focusing with undivided attention on this time of the season?

Of course, how else? It is your valuable contribution to the second-largest maize harvest in South Africa’s history – staple food for the nation, an opportunity for export markets, and a boost for economic growth.

Read it in Afrikaans.

Liza de Beer from Old Mutual Insure says that this time of year is, unfortunately, also associated with a phenomenon as old as self-propelled harvesters themselves – harvester fires, when a piece of engineering genius is ruined within minutes, and the harvest process comes to an abrupt halt when you can least afford it.

Speaking of modern, sophisticated agricultural machinery – why does it happen that harvesters are destroyed by fire?

Common causes of harvester fires

Heat, oxygen and a fuel loading in the right combination, are the necessary components for a fire to ignite. It is all present in the engine of a self-propelled harvester, where the majority of fires originate and quickly spread to other parts of the machine. Add to that, our typical windy, low‑humidity winter climate conditions, some dry chaff, and a giant tinderbox is in the making.

Harvesters process large quantities of dry material, which build up dust and chaff particles and which, due to the high temperature generated by turbochargers and exhaust manifolds of engines, also increases the likelihood of fires. Not only does this cause damage to the machinery, it can also be the cause of fires that spread to other farms and property.

How to prevent and reduce combine harvester fires

Protect yourself, your business, and your investment in equipment and machinery by acting proactively and by focusing on a few basic aspects.

Before the harvest season

  • The necessity of regular inspections and maintenance in the months leading up to harvest season should not be overlooked.
  • Rodent damage to electrical wires that cause short circuits and bearing failures are usually noticed when it is too late and this can cause harvester fires.

During the harvest season

  • A good start is to clean the engine area thoroughly and to remove any chaff and dust in and around the engine regularly.
  • Look for chaff build-up beneath covers and guards in the engine.
  • Use a compressor to clean these areas daily to prevent fires.
  • Repair or replace damaged/worn electric cables and connectors that may cause sparks and short circuits.

It has been proven over the years that most harvester fires could have been prevented by spending only a few minutes each day cleaning the critical areas in the machine. It is definitely worth it, considering the devastating consequences a fire can have on your business during the harvest season.

This article is intended to provide information and not any advice or legal advice.

Contact your broker or adviser, or visit our website at www.ominsure.co.za for information on our agricultural product solutions and for the contact details of our nearest sales office.

All products are underwritten by Old Mutual Insure, an authorised financial services provider (FSP 12).